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Britain,US discuss Iran scenarios

LONDON — Britain is involved in military contingency planning with the United States over Iran and other potential flashpoints in the Middle East, officials said Friday, but they insisted the talks aren’t a prelude to a preemptive strike against Tehran’s nuclear program.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office confirmed that routine military planning is being carried out with the United States and other allies on a range of scenarios, including on the potential use by American forces of British bases, some of which can act as staging posts for missions to the Middle East.

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The Guardian newspaper reported in Friday’s editions that the United States had asked Britain to use bases in Cyprus and British territory in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean to help build up forces in the Gulf.

‘‘Contingency planning is something which we do as a matter of routine. Obviously we are working closely, for example with the United States, as we have done in the past, regarding the use of UK bases,’’ a spokeswoman for Cameron told reporters.

‘‘We don’t get into details of those discussions, but we have in the past cooperated on the use of UK bases,’’ she said. The US military used British bases before the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Britain’s Foreign Office said that the UK was involved in ‘‘prudent’’ planning.

‘‘The government does not believe that military action against Iran is the right option at this time, but we are not taking any option off the table,’’ Cameron’s spokeswoman said.

She said that Britain remained committed to a policy of imposing ever tighter sanctions against Iran, while also seeking to engage Tehran in talks aimed at ensuring the country has access to civilian nuclear power but abandons its alleged pursuit of an atomic weapon. Tehran insists it is not developing nuclear arms.

Britain’s government declined to comment on The Guardian’s claim that UK attorney general Dominic Grieve had issued legal advice cautioning that any involvement in a preemptive strike on Iran — including cooperating on bases — would violate international law.

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